Shahtoosh trade thriving despite global ban

24, Mar 31’08

Despite China’s rosy picture about increased protection and rising population of the highly endangered Tibetan antelope, Shahtoosh, the world’s finest wool obtained by killing it, is still being smuggled from Tibet to Kashmir, in defiance of a worldwide ban, reported Reuters Feb 22. “Supply of raw wool continues through Nepal and other routes. As long as shahtoosh wool is smuggled from Tibet, the shawl-making will continue in Kashmir,” it quoted 45-year-old Riyaz, a shahtoosh trader who declined to give his surname, as saying. “Even after the ban, there is great demand for shahtoosh shawls in India and abroad,” he was quoted as telling Reuters at the single-story building that housed his wool store.

“I feel sorry if the animal is killed for wool, but we believe that animal sheds its wool in summer,” the report quoted 50-year-old weaver Ghulam Mustafa as saying. Reuters saw dozens of wooden shuttle looms humming in the hands of shahtoosh weavers.

Despite a worldwide ban, including in Kashmir, the shawls still fetch as much as $18,000 in luxury boutiques in Europe, the United States and Gulf countries, traders were cited as saying.

Environmentalists say five Tibetan antelopes are killed to make a two-meter shawl, which weighs only 150 to 170 grams and is so fine it can be passed through a wedding ring.


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